Check it off your bucket list
What’s standing in the way of your family’s dream of taking a volunteer vacation? Whether it’s money, time or worry, here’s how to topple those roadblocks and make that trip a reality.
Find the money
It’s true that a ME to WE volunteer vacation to Kenya, India or Ecuador costs more than a resort holiday in the Caribbean. That’s in part because WE’s international development is happening in destinations that are farther afield and may involve some tricky logistics, and also in part because the price tag for each trip includes funds that go directly to support development work in those communities. These financial planning tips will help put a trip like this within reach.
Open a separate travel savings account. Research shows you’ll save more when you have a special account “labeled” for a specific purpose, and you’re far less likely to spend those savings on something else once you allocate money in this way. Deposit your tax refund, bonus or any other “found money” directly into this account and you’ll get to your goal, faster.
Create a budget. Start by figuring out the total cost of the trip, including flights (which will be significantly lower at certain times of year), insurance, luggage, etc. (a WE travel expert can help). Then subtract any savings you’ve already set aside in your travel account. Now divide the remaining cost by the number of weeks or months until the date you’d like to go away to calculate how much you’ll need to save on a weekly or monthly basis to achieve your goal.
Set up automated transfers. Remember the dollar figure you calculated above? Arrange to have that amount transferred from your chequing account into your travel savings account each week or month. But—and this is very important—don’t go into overdraft! If you need to, temporarily cut down spending on other nice-to-haves (such as eating out, fashion buys or new technologies), or consider boosting your income with a side gig or by renting out part of your home with AirBnB.
Consider fundraising as a family. The dollars donated in support of the cause you select will help offset the cost of your trip, while helping you to think and act like change-makers as you spend quality time together working towards a common goal. Printable fundraising resources will help guide you through the process and stay on track.
Get time on your side
Modern families find it tough enough to swing a meal together a couple times a week, let alone to drop off the grid for a week or more on a life-changing adventure! But it certainly can be done.
Let them know at work. Even if it’s more than a year from now, tell your employer or team about your travel plans. That will allow you and your team to create a plan for handling your work responsibilities – and the fact that you won’t be readily available via email – while you’re gone. Similarly, if the kids will miss any classes, find out what the protocol is for missed lessons and assignments
Get your documents in order. Ordering passports can be a lengthy process, especially if you don’t already have the proper source documentation for children, such as birth or citizenship certificates. Depending on your destination, you may also need to apply for visitor visas. You can get country-specific entry and exit requirements, including how long your passport needs to valid, on the Government of Canada’s website or U.S. Department of State Traveler’s Checklist.
See a travel doctor. Various vaccinations are recommended or required to visit certain countries, and some may need to be administered multiple times over a few months in order to take effect before you leave. It might also be time to get a booster shot if you haven’t had one for Tetanus in the past decade.
Find peace of mind
It’s natural to have niggling worries about taking a big trip. Here’s how to address the concerns that might be holding your family back.
“I’ll be totally cut off from my friends!” While you might be looking forward to a break from the constant ping of smartphone notifications, your teens may be dreading the idea of being away from their friends both in real life and over social media. You can reassure them that there will be other volunteers their age on the trip that they can hang out with—and eventually add to their friend lists.
“What will there be to eat?” f anyone in your family is a fussy eater, find out what food will be on offer ahead of time so there are no surprises.
“What happens if…” Discuss the itinerary, including all the flights, connections and layovers, and think about potential mishaps that you can mitigate in advance. For example, a flight delay becomes less onerous if you pack favorite snacks and a deck of cards. If you’re concerned that one of you will be separated from the group at a busy airport or market, designate a meeting point at each location.
“How safe is it?” If safety is your concern, take comfort in the data. Since 2002, more than 15,000 youth and adults have safely travelled across the world with WE. Numerous proactive safety measures, protocols and training are in place, and all trips are supported by an in-country team responsible for communications and decision-making in case of emergency. (Find out more at metowe.com/safety.)